The first soil of Saint Anthony's school site was turned in April 1939. Three weeks later the foundation stone of the school was laid by the then Bishop of Northampton Lawrence Youens. On Sunday 20th July 1940 the new mission of Saint Anthony's was opened by Father Houghton and Mass was celebrated in the school hall with an attendance of 91 people. On the 2nd September 1940 Saint Anthony's school opened its doors to the first set of children. The school hall was used not only for Sunday Mass, but also for daily Mass and other services.
Over the following years until 1955 the debt from building the school was repaid, down to £1,000. The school was already too small for the number attending, and the old presbytery, "Wyvis Lodge", was to be demolished by the council. To cope with this, two extra classrooms were built for £3,000, and "Shepherd's Hey" was purchased along with 6 acres of land, for £7,000.
By 1960 a further £18,000 had been raised, paying off the debts and leaving £7,000 in hand. Church building started with the laying of the foundation stone on October 8th. The first stage alone (just the nave) was expected to cost £32,000, exclusive of furnishing. The second stage (sanctuary and tower) was to cost a further £18,000, and the addition of large trancepts (which were never built) were to add another £30,000.
Saturday 22 February 1964 was the celebration date for the new church. About 700 people turned up for this landmark in the history of the parish. Bishop Leo Parkerand about twenty of the clergy from the surrounding parishes, were escorted from the school hall to the front of the new church. At a separate celebration in school the children presented the then Parish Priest with a lovely carved statue of Saint Anthony which still stands in the aisle of the church to this day.
Fr Nathaniel came to the parish in August 2020 and is current Parish Priest. Our deacon is Reverend Paul Lipscomb.
A list of previous clergy is listed below.:
Parish Priests 1940-2020
Fr Bryan Houghton 1954-1969
Fr James Reidy 1969-1972
Fr Frank Glanfield 1972-1974
Fr Michael Hazell 1974-1978
Fr Norman Smith 1978
Fr John Fennell 1978-1981
Fr Peter Nightingale 1981-1989
Canon Michael Hazell 1989-2001
Fr Richard Moroney 1999-2012
Fr Joseph Pham 2012-2013
Fr Michael Harrison 2013- 2014
Fr Nicholas Nwanzi 2014-2020
Fr Nathaniel Onwuekwe 2020 -
Assistant Priests 1943-1944
Fr Joseph Bracken 1944-1947
Fr Patrick Oates 1947-1949
Fr Oswald Baker 1954-1958
Fr Brendan Peters 1958-1964
Fr Dominic Gillooly 1964-1966
Fr Michael Donnelly 1966-1969
Fr Joseph Garvey 1969-1972
Fr Francis Murphy 1971-1975
Fr Peter Brown 1972-1977
Fr Michael Sellers 1975-1978
Fr John Keane 1978-1979
Fr Gerald Thornton 1978-1983
Fr Richard Moroney 1979-1983
Fr Joseph Walsh 1989-1990
Fr Stephen McGuinness 1990-1991
Fr Mark O'Donnell 1996-1999
Permanent Deacons 1991- 2020
Rev Douglas Denny 1991-
Rev Frank Shepherd 1999-2018
Rev Paul Lipscomb 2004-2009 and current
St. Anthony's has enjoyed a lively musical tradition for many years since the new church building was opened in February 1964. However, a pipe organ was not installed until 1974.
It was at this time the distinguished organ building business of Grant, Degens and Bradbeer was coming to an end and the church were fortunate in having one of their final instruments installed in the west end gallery of the church. The company's organs are noted for their exceptional tonal quality and the instrument at St. Anthony's speaks wonderfully into a glorious acoustic.
Maurice Forsythe-Grant was a pioneer in British organ building during the sixties and seventies, bringing a much needed revival to the scene by the use of 'Classical' voicing techniques, more commonly found in eighteenth century instruments in France and Holland. The renowned organist Peter Hurford has said "The organs he built are still among the most musically compelling instruments in the land, never failing to challenge the player's musical perceptions".
The organ was installed with limited available funds and a proper case could not be afforded. Never the less, the specification provided an organ with two manuals and pedals, well balanced choruses and a splendid swell Trompette.
Over time, the electric action of the instrument became more and more unreliable until early in 2012, thanks to the enthusiasm and vision of parish priest Fr. Richard Moroney a contract for the restoration/conservation of the organ was placed with Pipe Organ Services of Leicesterhire.
Whilst respecting the existing tonal scheme, some additional ranks were installed to give greater tonal variety. The console was completely overhauled, with new keyboards, a digital electrical system together with a comprehensive range of couplers and playing aids. A splendid new case was made, the design of which blends well with the church architecture.
On the 29th September 2012, Martin Baker, Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, gave an opening recital and this was followed by two further concerts to celebrate the restoration of the organ.
Saint Anthony was born Ferdinand de Bouillon in Portugal in 1195 AD. At the age of fifteen he joined the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine. Several years later he met five young Franciscan friars on their way to Morocco to preach Christ to the Moslems. There they were martyred, and the return of their bodies to Portugal for burial moved Anthony to seek entrance to their radical new order, to change his name, and to aspire to the missions himself.
Soon he too set off for Morocco but he became ill on the way and had to return. His ship was driven off course to Sicily from where he made his way to Assisi, and there he attended the last great gathering of Franciscans at which Francis himself was present. At its conclusion he was assigned to the priory at Forli to say Mass for the brothers and to serve in the kitchen.
At an ordination where no one was prepared to preach, Anthony was chosen to speak extemporaneously, and his sermon so astonished his hearers with its brilliance and theological wisdom that he was made preacher to the province of Romagna. The learned heretics of that area met their match in him at last, and soon Anthony's reputation was spread throughout all of Italy and France.
Wherever he went, people crowded the churches to hear him. Merchants closed their shops, and women stayed up all night in the pews waiting for him. When the churches could hold no more, they moved him out to the street. When the city squares overflowed, they took his platform to the hillsides. As many as forty thousand at one time went to hear this short, stocky, swarthy young Portuguese with the incredible voice who preached like a recording angel.
Called "The Wonder Worker," it was his sermons which worked most of the wonders, inflaming the hearts of sinners, reconciling enemies, converting heretics. But there were other marvels as well and two of many such stories, often thought of as legends, are attested to by witnesses.
At Rimini one time when Waldensian heretics, angry at his charges against them, had marched off, Anthony was walking alone by the sea reflecting aloud on how often the fishes are mentioned in Scripture. Suddenly those who followed him noticed that fishes had gathered and were lifting their heads above water and appearing to listen.